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Status Of Orange Roughy Fisheries Not Positive

The Forest and Bird Protection Society said that further cuts in orange roughy catches will be needed this year and probably in future years. Some populations are now as low as 3 percent of what they were in 1980.

Society marine spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said orange roughy were a long-lived slow growing species and any fishery needs to be managed very carefully. "We have not done that in the past and it is critical we learn from our mistakes."

Mr Weeber said the current population assessment of the north-east and east Chatham Rise was uncertain. "The model results do not tally with declining catch rates on seamounts to the east of the rise and a precautionary approach must therefore be taken with orange roughy catch limits."

Mr Weeber said catches in these areas have declined from about 2 tonnes per tow to under half a tonne per tow in the last decade. "These results are inconsistent with a healthy and sustainable fishery, which model suggests."

Mr Weeber said New Zealand should not repeat the mistakes made with the Challenger roughy fishery. "Between 1995 and 2000 stock assessment models predicted the recovery of the Challenger orange roughy fishery but catch rates continued to decline."

"On further examination last year NIWA scientists found that the fishery had declined to around 3 percent of it original state and Minister of Fisheries had to close the fishery."

Mr Weeber said that if we have learnt anything from the sad Challenger saga there must be no increase in the current catch limits until further research is carried out verify last year's acoustic survey and model results.

"In other orange roughy fisheries the sorry state continues. A new assessment on the South Chatham Rise has documented the serial depletion of seamounts from west to east over the last 15 years."

Mr Weeber said this assessment indicates the fishery has been reduced to 24 percent of its unfished size.

"Other orange roughy fisheries were reduction will be required include the West Coast of the South Island and the East Coast of the North Island."

"Deepwater fishing for orange roughy and other species is leaving a terrible legacy for the future. Fish nets are not only killing long-lived orange roughy but are severely damaging their marine habitat."

Mr Weeber said deep sea corals up to several metres high are being smashed by the trawl nets.

Mr Weeber said that while orange roughy have been aged at well over 100 years, these coral features removed by trawlers are even older. Gorgonian corals have been aged by NIWA at over 500 years and bamboo corals at over 300 years."

"It will take centuries, if not millennia, for the marine environment to recover from the impacts of trawling for orange roughy and deepwater oreos."

For further information contact Barry Weeber (04)385-7374 or (025)622-7369.

See attached graphs showing decline in catch per unit of effort (CPUE) rates (tonnes per trawl tow) in eastern end orange roughy fisheries from Francis, RICC (2001) Orange roughy CPUE on the South and East Chatham Rise. May 2001 Background: The decline of Orange roughy fisheries

Orange roughy are considered to live to well over 100 years old and not start breeding till they are 23 to 29 years old. They are fished at depths of 700 to 1000m where they form dense spawning or feeding aggregations. These aggregations are often associated with seamounts, pinnacles or canyons. They are often caught in association with black and smooth oreos which are also long-lived.

The Sorry State of Orange Roughy Fisheries

Fishery % initial Current Current Estimated population trend catch limit Current left* (TACC) Annual Yield (tonnes) (tonnes) Challenger 3 Declining? Closed 220 Northern unknown Declining 600 Unknown Northern - 10-15 Declining? 200 16 to 30 Bay of Plenty East Cape 14 Declining? 200 130 East Coast 10 Declining? 900 770 North Isld NW Chatham 21-44 Declining 2250 930-2600 Rise NE & E Chat- 45? Unclear 4950 incl 10,400? ham Rise - declining Sth Rise but CSP catch rates is 6300 South Chat- 24 Declining 4950 incl 1540 ham Rise catch rates NE & E Chatham R Puysegur 7 Unclear Closed 90-340 Southern areas Unknown Declining 5000 Unknown WC South Isld 12 Declining 430 120

* Footnote: 30% is the agreed minimum population size for NZ fisheries.

Review of Orange roughy stocks: ORH 1: Principally Bay of Plenty - the main fishery started in 1995. A trawl survey in 1998 noted a 95 percent decline in spawning population size. The previous Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, refused to take action to reduce the catch limit. The fishing industry did not honour an agreement to carry out another trawl survey in 1999 to check on the stock size. A survey was finally undertaken in June 2000. This was used in the current assessment which estimates the stock is between 10 and 16 percent of its unfished size. This is under half the minimum target size of 30 percent. The catch limit for the Bay of Plenty area was reduced to 200 tonnes by the current Minister of Fisheries. Now the fishing industry wishes to embark on a further adaptive management programme which would mean additional seamounts are trawled and more orange roughy populations at risk. Action: Take further action to reduce catches and protect unfished seamounts.

ORH 2A (North): East Cape North Island - the main fishery started in 1994 but the most recent assessment indicates that this stock is now half the minimum target size of 30%. While a cut in the catch limit occurred in 1998 the previous Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, did not take a decision in 1999 to further cut the catch limit. The industry has in the past opposed a staggered reduction in catch limits to prevent over-fishing. Last year the catch limit was reduce to 200 tonnes by the current Minister of Fisheries but this is still above estimates Action: Further cuts in catches must happen this year.

ORH 2A (South), 2B, 3B: East Coast North Island - this fishery started in the early 1980s and has reduced the stock to 10 percent of its unfished size. Current catches are above estimates of sustainable yield. Action: Further cuts in catches must happen this year.

ORH3B (Chatham Rise): North-east and Eastern end: This may once have been the world's largest orange roughy stock. The state of the population is unclear. While the current assessment indicates the population may be around 45 percent of its unfished size but this model result is inconsistent with catches from seamounts on the Eastern end of this fishery. Catches on these features have declined from over 6 tonnes per tow to about 1 tonne per tow between 1991-92 and 2000. It is therefore unclear whether the stock is rebuilding and another acoustic survey is required. North-West: This population may or may not be above minimum sustainable limits. The assessment is highly uncertain and has not been updated for several years. South Rise: This fishery has shown a sequential move over the last 15 years from east to west with declining catch rates as each seamount is fished out. The latest assessment indicates the population has been reduced to 24 percent of its unfished size. Current catches of around 1100-1200 tonnes should be maintained. Puysegur: This fishery was closed in 1998 after the stock had crashed to 7 percent of its unfished state after 8 years of fishing. Southern fisheries including Auckland Islands and Antipodes: Catches and catch rates have declined in these fisheries. Between 1995-96 and last year "Antipodes" fishery (actually East of Pukaki Rise) fell from 3400 tonnes to 2 tonnes. Past catches were unlikely to be sustainable but no action has been taken in the last 3 years to better control catches in these small fisheries. Other areas: State or size of other southern populations are unknown. Action: Reduce NW Chatham Rise and retain other catches on the Chatham Rise as a precautionary measure and reduce catch limits in southern areas.

ORH 7A (Challenger Plateau - West Coast South Island) - Fishing which started in the early 1980s has reduced this stock to 3 percent of its unfished state. Catch limits were reduced in 1998 when further concerns were raised as to whether the stock was rebuilding. Further reductions were supposed to happen in 1999 but the Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, refused to put it on last year's sustainability round. Last year the Minister of Fisheries effectively closed this fishery.

ORH 7B (West Coast South Island) - Fishing which started in the mid-1980s has reduced this stock to around 12 percent of its unfished size. Current catches are still above most estimates of sustainable yield. Action: Catches need to be further reduced this year.

Source: Most of the information on the state of orange roughy stocks is based on Stock Assessments reviewed by the May 2001 Ministry of Fisheries Stock Assessment Plenary and "Report of the Fishery Assessment Plenary, May 2001: stock assessments and yield estimates" compiled by Annala J H, Sullivan K J and O'Brien C J and N W McL Smith, Science policy Ministry of Fisheries, May 2001.


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